ST. PAUL, Minn. The Minnesota Wild staff, including general manager Chuck Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr, try to projects the first-round of the NHL draft each year to see which prospects might fall to Minnesota.
Most seasons, they can predict fairly accurately. Last year, Chuck Fletcher said he had the top 10 pretty well pegged. This year, with Minnesota holding the No. 7 overall pick, their highest since 2005, the predictions are a little tougher.
"This year, you could say the top 12, maybe 13, players on each team's list are fairly similar, but be in dramatically different order," Flahr said. "The names are the same probably. It's going to be an interesting draft. It can go in a lot of different directions."
Nail Yakupov is generally regarded as the top prospect available in Friday's first round, but a general consensus doesn't follow Yakupov. There's isn't much separating the next dozen players, any of whom could sneak into the top-10 depending on team preference. Another consideration, most of the top picks this season also will need at least a year of seasoning before being ready to make the jump to the NHL.
The Wild have another important pick on their hands, their highest selection since taking Benoit Pouliot with the fourth-overall pick in 2005. Fletcher and Flahr feel confident in their ranking and know they will get, at least, the seventh-best player on their board.
Here are eight players Minnesota could ponder selecting if stays at No. 7, ranked in the likelihood they could end up in a Wild sweater:
Griffin Reinhart, defense
Size: 6-foot-4, 207 pounds
2011 stats (team): 12 goals 24 assists (Edmonton, Western Hockey League)
What he would bring to the Wild: Reinhart, ranked as the No. 8 prospect among North American skaters in the NHL's central scouting final rankings, would bring a physical presence to Minnesota's blue line. Reinhart is a true two-way defenseman too and can add a big shot on the point.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Griffin's an intriguing guy. His size and skill set is very attractive. He's a big kid, a powerful skater. He shoots the puck a ton. He moves the puck and he's just kind of a kid that's grown into his body. He's got a ways to go, but he's also has quality, quality upside when you look at him three or four years from now."
Morgan Reilly, defense
Size: 6-foot, 190 pounds
2011 stats (team): 3 goals, 15 assists (Moose Jaw, WHL)
What he would bring to the Wild: Reilly, ranked No. 5 among North Americans, was limited to 18 games this past season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Reilly is more of an offensive defenseman and someone who can move the puck, which is something Minnesota has been seeking as evidenced by their trade of Nick Schultz for Tom Gilbert.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "He missed most of the year with an ACL injury, which is unfortunate for him his draft year. But he's a terrific skater. He's got good offensive skill. He needs to work in certain areas of his game, as any young player does. Certainly a talent."
Teuvo Teravainen, forward
Size: 5-foot-1, 165 pounds
2011 stats (team): 11 goals, 7 assists (Jokerit, Finland)
What he would bring to the Wild: Teravainen, ranked second among European skaters, split last season among three different teams, including Jokerit's junior and senior teams. He played 40 games for the senior club where he scored 11 times. The slight Finn is a playmaker and Minnesota has certainly tried to acquire as much skill as it can. A transition would be aided by the Finnish influence these days with captain Mikko Koivu, rookie Mikael Granlund and goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Teravainen's a smaller, skilled Finnish player, but highly, highly skilled with great hands and great vision. He's got to get a lot stronger. He can pick up the pace at times, but terrific instincts from him."
Jacob Trouba, defense
Size: 6-foot-2, 193 pounds
2011 stats (team): 9 goals, 22 assists (USA U-18, USHL)
What he would bring to the Wild: Trouba, ranked No. 9 among North American skaters, is a stay-at-home defenseman with good size that can clear opponents away from the net. With its stable of young forwards, Minnesota might look to this draft to shore up the defensive end of the ice. Trouba can shoot from the point, but will be drafted early because of his ability to stop other teams.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Trouba's more of a defensive guy, but he's a bigger, stronger guy. He can really shoot the puck though. He's got some ability, but I think his bread and butter at the next level is going to be on the defensive side. He does have a chance to be a good one."
Ryan Murray, defense
Size: 6-foot, 201 pounds
2011 stats (team): 9 goals, 22 assists (Everett, WHL)
What he would bring to the Wild: Murray, ranked second among North American skaters, is likely to be the first defenseman drafted so he might not make it to Minnesota. He has good size, instincts, experience and can play an all-around game. He also is close to being NHL ready and the Wild might not be looking for another young player ready to break in this season. However, Minnesota will also look best player available and would take Murray if he is that guy.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Ryan's been around, played junior for a while now. He's a very intelligent player. Probably not the flashiest player as far as in an offensive role, but he has a very well matured game and is very mature kid, pretty close to probably being NHL ready."
Mikhail Grigorenko, forward
Size: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds
2011 stats (team): 40 goals, 45 assists (Quebec, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
What he would bring to the Wild: Grigorenko, the third-ranked North American skater, has good size and skill. He led all rookies in the QMJHL in goals and points. Grigorenko would add more size up front for Minnesota. A team can never have enough centers and most of the Wild's young forwards are natural wings.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Grigorenko is a tall centerman. He's got terrific hands and vision. His skill set's elite. It's just getting stronger and picking up the pace of his game, learning to compete at the pro level."
Alex Galchenyuk, forward
Size: 6-foot, 198 pounds
2011 stats (team): 0 goals, 0 assists (Sarnia, Ontario Hockey League)
What he would bring to the Wild: Galchenyuk played only two games last season because of a knee injury, but had 31 goals and 52 assists the previous year with Sarnia. The fourth-ranked North American skater can shoot and pass, and was a teammate of Yakupov the past two years. Minnesota might just take a chance on his talent and could pair him with the talented young forwards soon on the way.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Galchenyuk's another kid who's very skilled. He's very good at distributing the puck. He missed a majority of the year with a knee injury, but he's a very smart and skilled offensive player that has a chance to be a quality pro."
Filip Forsberg, forward
Size: 6-foot-2, 181 pounds
2011 stats (team): 8 goals, 9 assists (Leksand, Sweden)
What he would bring to the Wild: Forsberg, the top-rated European skater, split his season among three teams, playing 43 games with Leksand. A natural goal scorer, Forberg was the youngest player on Sweden's gold-medal team at the 2012 World Junior Championships. He has decent size and Minnesota is always looking for more goal scoring after finishing with the lowest goal total in the league last season.
Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr says: "Forsberg's more of a goal scorer. He's a winger, good size and speed. He can really shoot the puck. He'll shoot it from anywhere."
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